Ace Frehley: the soundtrack of my life

Ace Frehley pictured against a backdrop of space
(Image credit: Entertainment One (eOne)/SPV)

When Ace Frehley laughs, he sounds like Batman’s great foe, The Penguin – and he laughs a lot as he talks to Classic Rock about some of the music that has shaped his eventful life. 

Born Paul Daniel Frehley in New York City on April 27, 1951, he became a world-famous rock star in the 70s as lead guitarist in Kiss, which he left in 1982 and embarked on a solo career. That was put on hold temporarily when he rejoined Kiss in 1992 for a reunion tour. He's been bickering with them ever since. 

Ace Frehley's last 10 years have been his busiest as a solo artist, and his albums retain the streetwise rock’n’roll attitude and eccentricity that has always defined him. As he explains, “It all started for me with the British Invasion.”


The first music I remember hearing

There was Elvis and Chuck Berry on the radio when I was in junior school, but it was when I started playing guitar, at age thirteen, that I got really crazy about music. The Beatles and the Stones and the whole British Invasion played a big role in nurturing me. 

The guitar hero

I copied guys like Clapton, Hendrix and Jeff Beck. I used to slow down the records so I could figure out the solos. But the biggest influence on me was Jimmy Page. The way Jimmy played was unorthodox. And my style is unorthodox because I never took guitar lessons; I play differently to how a schooled musician would. If it sounds good, do it. That’s always been my motto. That’s rock’n’roll.

The first song I preformed live

A long time before Kiss I had a band with my brother, and one song I distinctly remember us performing is Kicks by Paul Revere And The Raiders. We did it because it was a big hit in the US – and because it was pretty easy to play

The greatest album of all time

Led Zeppelin changed my life. And Hendrix’s first record, Are You Experienced, was revolutionary. I used to carry that record to high school and just stare at the pictures on the cover. 

The singer

Paul Rodgers is way up there on top, and I love Robert Plant and Mick Jagger too. Nobody sounds like Jagger. He has his own style. 

The songwriter

Paul McCartney is such a great writer. Look at what he’s done since he left The Beatles! 

The anthem

That song by Queen: [sings] ‘We will, we will, rock you!’ That’s a great anthem.

The best record I've made

It’s a toss-up between my first solo album from 1978 and Spaceman [2018]. The first one still holds up after forty years, and so many guitar players cite that album and the Kiss Alive! record as what got them into playing guitar. And I’m really happy with how Spaceman turned out. The whole thing rocks.

The worst record I've made

Music From ‘The Elder’ (Kiss’s 1981 concept album) wasn’t a bad album, but it was the wrong album at that time. I don’t think Kiss fans were ready for an album like that.

The best live album

Kiss Alive! It was the album that broke the band, and it really did capture what Kiss is all about, because our live show was our biggest strength. A lot of the show was choreographed, with all the special effects – the bombs, the fire, and me shooting rockets out of my guitar.

The best live band I've seen

I was lucky enough to see Led Zeppelin’s first New York appearance, at the Fillmore East. They were opening up for Iron Butterfly. Zeppelin were amazing. After they finished their set, half the people walked out, which was very embarrassing for the headliner.

My cult hero

Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks. They never made it big, but it was a really interesting group. The music is really hard to categorise. Also I think that [Free guitarist] Paul Kossoff was a great player who never got the adulation he deserved. And it was really tragic the way he died.

The most underrated band of all time

I always thought that The Kinks should have been bigger. Some of their songs are genius. Ray Davies knew how to mix simple chord work with great vocal melody, and the lyrics were always cool.

My Saturday night party song

In the late seventies and early eighties I’d get together with my friends and we would blast some Slade. Noddy Holder was just such a maniac. Cum On Feel The Noize is a great drinking song. I guess all of Slade’s songs are great drinking songs.

My 'in the mood for love' song

If I’m with a gal, I’ll play either Stairway To Heaven or Frank Sinatra.

The song that makes me cry

On Spaceman I did a remake of this old song I Wanna Go Back that Eddie Money had a hit with in the eighties. That song makes me cry. The words take me back to my youth and my high school days. I identified so much with that song, so I knew I could do a good job with it.

The song I want played at my funeral

New York Groove, I guess. It was my big hit, so why not?

Ace Frehley's 21st Century Singles Collection is out now

Paul Elliott

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2005, Paul Elliott has worked for leading music titles since 1985, including Sounds, Kerrang!, MOJO and Q. He is the author of several books including the first biography of Guns N’ Roses and the autobiography of bodyguard-to-the-stars Danny Francis. He has written liner notes for classic album reissues by artists such as Def Leppard, Thin Lizzy and Kiss, and currently works as content editor for Total Guitar. He lives in Bath - of which David Coverdale recently said: “How very Roman of you!”